Stormwater. Stormwater pollution is believed to be the greatest source of pollution of the Suncoast’s waterways. Development practices that harden and compact surfaces have caused a 50 percent increase in stormwater runoff flowing into Sarasota Bay, carrying pollutants such as litter, motor oil, gasoline, fertilizers, pesticides, pet wastes, sediments and anything else that can float, dissolve or be swept away by moving water. The most significant challenge at hand is to ensure the appropriate adoption and enforcement of strict numeric nutrient water quality standards mandating regulation of all of the state’s waterways, including manmade canals, ditches and storm water conveyance systems. Litigation by environmental groups, including St. Johns Riverkeeper has successfully forced EPA to take action and enforce the Clean Water Act. Currently the DEP is involved in rulemaking and the litigation continues. There is significant need for additional advocacy at a statewide and local level on this issue, and when the time comes to adopt NNC for the Suncoast’s watersheds, strong advocacy will be critical.
Sewage. The last several decades have brought about dramatic improvements in sewage and wastewater treatment in the Suncoast, but the progress has stalled and threatens to backslide. Aging private septic systems and municipal infrastructure cause significant amounts of sewage to contaminate the watershed. Major sewage spills are on the rise and expected growth in the region will further challenge the effort to balance the area water’s ability to absorb rising nutrient levels. Lax enforcement and insufficient budgeting for maintenance and upgrades are important issues to be addressed.